One of the breakout hits of last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Wildcard Theatre return in 2019 for a new run of their acclaimed show Electrolyte at Pleasance Forth. Written by James Meteyard, it features music and lyrics from Maimuna Memon. Electrolyte is a perfect example of the still emerging genre that is ‘gig theatre’; slightly more musical than a play with songs, but at the same time definitely not a musical, gig theatre is an intriguing and welcome addition to the theatrical spectrum.
From a fairly informal beginning, the audience piling in as the band do some last-minute tuning up, everything comes together and Jessie’s story can begin. She’s been having a tough time of it following her dad’s death, but a glimmer of light comes into her life when she hears Allie Touch singing at a gig – keen to start afresh and get back in touch with her mum, she takes Allie up on her offer of a place to stay in London. However, things go far from smoothly for Jessie, who’s left wondering what is and isn’t real…
Spoken word combines with the musical element brilliantly, creating a feeling of ever-pulsating rhythm – it also works well at times of heightened emotion, conveying Jessie’s ever-increasing distress as she starts to feel as if her world is closing in on her. The various styles of music included in the show help to change up the pace, going from loud & heavy drum & bass to the quiet intimacy of an acoustic guitar – add in Maimuna Memon’s stunning vocals and you’re really onto a winner.
Ben Simon, Chris Georgiou & James Meteyard make up the rest of the band (also playing Paul, Ralph & Jim), and the whole thing is fronted by Olivia Sweeney as Jessie. Part frontwoman, part leading lady, to start with Sweeney paints Jessie as something of a lovable rogue – but underneath it all she’s simply vulnerable and scared. Coming to terms with grief is difficult enough as it is, but for Jessie it’s doubly hard as she has her own demons to confront; as the show goes on, the audience becomes more of a friend to Jessie – and one that she’s comfortable about confiding in.
It’s an inspired way to keep the mental health conversation going – a genre-defining piece of theatre to which a new audience can definitely relate.
My verdict? A special piece of theatre that fuses spoken word with all the key components of a gig – a great way to keep the mental health conversation going.
Electrolyte runs at Pleasance Courtyard (Forth) until 26 August 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office.